Neutral Host Providers
A neutral host provider acts as an agent who manages a portfolio of DAS venues. This is generally the most hands off way to have a DAS installed in your building. Once the lease is negotiated, the neutral host provider will manage the logistics of installation, operation and maintenance of the DAS. This is appealing to building owners who don’t have the time or staff to oversee the DAS.
As an informed client, the DAS building owner can capitalize on the service that the neutral host provides with a minimal level of involvement. On the other hand, an uninformed client will get the lowest possible percentage of the DAS revenue and may be unhappy with the DAS in their building. There are several ways that a neutral host provider can steer the DAS that may be not be in the property owners best interest.
Playing to the Market
Since the neutral host provider is building a product to sell, they may be slanting their product toward the most likely customers. The DAS may be designed to support a level of coverage that is only acceptable to one of the Wireless Service Providers (WSPs) or may not meet future requirements of all WSPs for new frequency bands. Meeting these additional requirements may require an upgrade to the DAS which is disruptive to building operations or cost prohibitive.
Unfortunately, the most likely customer is not always your preferred WSP and you may end up with a DAS for WSP A and have a year left on your contract with WSP B. To make matters worse, WSP B may have no interest in participating in any DAS led by your neutral host provider.
Minimizing Cost to Maximize Their Profit
There are cost cutting measures a neutral host can use that will not impact the marketability of the DAS to the WSP but may be detrimental to the building owner:
Cutting coverage area – WSPs may be most interested in a DAS that serves public areas of the building and not the “back of house” areas which are accessed by employees only. This can be crucial if you are relying on mobile services for a key business function.
Neglecting emergency services – Many building owners would like the DAS to amplify public safety services which will improve the safety of your building and may lower insurance premiums. Unfortunately the first responders are not a paying customer and this DAS add-on will likely not be included by the neutral host provider.
Disregard for aesthetics – If you are concerned about the visual impact of the DAS on your building, make sure you implement deployment guidelines prior to signing the lease.
Exploiting existing resources – after the lease is signed, the neutral host provider may hit you up to access more of the building’s resources (e.g., fiber, power, and space). Make sure you know the value of sharing your assets and capture them in an addendum to the lease.
Avoiding the Pitfalls
The best way to avoid the potential pitfalls of working with a neutral host provider is to become an informed customer. An informed customer knows the questions to ask, understands the responses and knows when they are being manipulated. If you don’t have time to research and understand the DAS marketplace, your best bet is to contact an expert.